The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder continue to capture the imagination of young girls everywhere. If your daughter loves to read the Little House on the Prairie series of books you’ll have to make it a point to visit the Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.  We made a deal with our oldest daughter.  If she read the entire series of Little House books, we would take her to Walnut Grove to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the Wilder Pageant.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Pepin, Wisconsin and the family later moved several times, first to Kansas then back to Pepin, on to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, then to Burr Oak, Iowa and finally to DeSmet, South Dakota. There are historic sites in all of these locations and many people visit all of Laura’s homesites by following the unofficial Laura Ingalls Wilder trail.  The continuing popularity of Wilder’s books nearly 60 years after her death ensures a steady stream of visitors.

While there are Little House on the Prairie themed festivities and museums in each location, our favorite are the events which occur each July surrounding the Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove, Minnesota

Getting There

Walnut Grove is located in south central Minnesota. The town was remote in the 1870’s when the Ingalls lived there and it’s not much easier to get there today.  Walnut Grove is a farming community located off U.S. Highway 14 in southwest Minnesota roughly 150 miles from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  The closest major airport is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota a little more than 100 miles to the southwest.

Things to See

Ingalls Dugout Site – 13501 County Road 5, Walnut Grove, MNWalnut Grove

One of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books is titled By the Banks of Plum Creek. The title refers to an earthen dugout home that the Ingalls family lived in next to Plum Creek.  You can visit the location of the home near Walnut Grove.  The homesite is located on a farm just outside of Walnut Grove.  The homesite sits on a picturesque piece of land adjacent to a rolling stream.  When we visited, the shallow stream had slow moving water that our kids waded in much as Laura and her sister did in the 1870’s.  Local residents told us however that the creek can and does flood from time to time.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum – 330 8th Street, Walnut Grove, MN  56180

Walnut Grove Covered WagonThe Laura Ingalls Wilder museum sits in the center of Walnut Grove. The museum is made up of several buildings including a schoolhouse, a chapel, a typical home of the day an example of a dugout home and a covered wagon.  The museum has a mix of items including historic items from the time period the Ingalls family lived in the area and things from the long-running television series.  The museum also has a well-stocked gift shop where your daughter can get the perfect bonnet!

Pageant Suppers-Walnut Grove Community Center – 311 6th St, Walnut Grove, MN

One of the things we had heard about before going to Walnut Grove were the church suppers served before the pageant performances at the Walnut Grove Community Center. The suppers are prepared by local residents for the large crowds that attend the pageant performances each night.  It has to be a challenge to feed such a large group of people in such a sort period of time.

The dinner is served buffet style and the menu is basic food typically consisting of things like hot turkey sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and beans. We took a look at the food being served and our daughters, who typically will eat anything, decided they did not want to eat the food served.  We opted instead to eat at the nearby Nellie’s Café.

Nellie’s Café – Highway 14, Walnut Grove, MN

Named after Nellie Oleson, a character from the Little House books, Nellie’s Café serves a variety of burgers, sandwiches and wraps. It’s nothing fancy but the food is good.  It can get crowded at pageant time.

The Wilder Pageant – 11505 Crown Avenue, Walnut Grove, MN  56180

Wilder PageantThe annual pageant is held during three consecutive weekends each July. This year the pageant is being held July 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23.  The event is held outdoors on a large piece of land on the edge of town.  There are several thousand seats facing a large set designed to replicate the Walnut Grove of the 1870’s.  The actors in the show are local townspeople who put on the show each July.

The pageant shows the Ingalls’ arrival in Walnut Grove and gives snippets of their life there. We were very impressed that the production was strictly a local effort. It was very well done and a great slice of Americana.  Our daughters loved it and it was the highlight of our trip.

Tickets for the pageant can be ordered online. Click here for details.

Where to Stay

As I mentioned earlier, Walnut Grove is not an easy place to get to. The pageant is held at night with the performance starting at 9:00pm which makes overnight accommodations a necessity unless you want to return to the Twin Cities late at night. Walnut Grove is a small town without any large hotels close by.  Marshall, Minnesota, the nearest large town is nearly 30 miles to the west.  We chose to stay at the Microtel Inn in Springfield, Minnesota about 25 miles to the east.

If you prefer to camp, there are several campgrounds in the area.

Wilder Inn
1000 Craig Avenue
Tracy, MN  56175
7 miles west of Walnut Grove

Lamberton Motel
601 1st Avenue
Lamberton, MN  56152
10 miles east of Walnut Grove

Microtel Inn & Suites
502 E. Rock Street
Springfield, MN  56087
25 miles east of Walnut Grove

Quality Inn
1511 E. College Drive
Marshall, MN  56258
30 miles northwest of Walnut Grove

Sleep Inn & Suites
300 Nwakama St.
Marshall, MN  56258
30 miles northwest of Walnut Grove

Super 8 Marshall
1106 East Main Street
Marshall, MN  56258
30 miles northwest of Walnut Grove

Redwood Lodge
1382 E. Bridge Street
Redwood Falls, MN  56283
42 miles northeast of Walnut Grove

For more information on Walnut Grove and the Wilder Pageant, visit .  Enjoy your trip!

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